The Romantic Bolognese from Bologna
Italy has always been romantic. This is why we all want to eat pasta on Valentine’s night, and Romeo and Juliet fell in love in the city of Verona. We all dream of a night under the stars, whether in a Tuscan castle, on an enchanting beach in the South, near one of the majestic lakes in the North or on a gondola in the great Venezia.
Bologna is a city rich in history, intellect and culture. It was the city with the first university in the world. Bologna’s architecture is fascinating, and to top it off, it is a paradise for those of us who love gastronomy. It is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region where many of Italy’s best-known cheeses, recipes, meats, vinegars, and wine come from.
Bolognese is one of those amazing dishes we all know and love. The name of the recipe has traveled the world, although outside of Italy, it is misused and not that close to the classic version.
In Bologna the sauce is made from vegetables and beef or solely beef. The history of Bolognese sauce dates back to the Roman Empire and the conquest of the Gallic countries, now France.
Due to its terrible misuse, the traditional recipe was registered in 1982 at the Italian Academy of Cuisine and the Tortellino Brotherhood, later making it a World Heritage.
The current recipe consists of frying carrots, garlic, onion and celery in olive oil, then you add prosciutto or pancetta, concentrated tomato paste and a splash of red wine and milk. The rest is to cook the meat over a very low heat so that all the flavors intensify. In other words, no cream, no butter, no tomatoes, no basil.
In the traditional recipe, the meat was cooked in milk because it was ox, the truth is that it adds softness to the recipe, I like that touch, as well as mixing two or three types of meat (beef, pork, veal) to intensify the flavor.
Here is my version of the traditional Bolognese that I learned to make in the city of Modena, next to Bologna and that I love to make for Romantic Reds students.
Here’s what you need:
- 1 1/2 pounds ground meat (beef, veal, pork)
- 1 lb. Gemelli pasta or pappardelle
- 2 oz. Italian pancetta or prosciutto
- 3/4 cup red wine (a bold style will be better)
- 2 tbsp. pure tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1-2 carrots, peeled and small diced
- 1 celery, cleaned and finely chopped
- 4 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to taste
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth (optional)
What you have to do:
In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and the pancetta or prosciutto for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside. In the same pot, sauté the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery and cook until very tender. Don’t let them burn, just let them sweat and soften for about 5-7 minutes and set aside. Increase the temperature. Add the meat, salt and pepper to taste and sear it well for 3-5 minutes. Add a little of the tomato paste, then the wine and let it evaporate while you continue stirring. Add the pancetta or prosciutto, vegetables, bay leaves, milk, cover and cook on very low heat for 30 or up to 60-90 minutes if you have time. If you need to add a bit of liquid, add a little vegetable broth. While the meat is cooking, boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. Strain and set aside. Immediately mix the pasta with the meat, grate some Parmigiano Reggiano and pour a glass of your favorite Italian red wine, my go-to will be a Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC or a Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC.